|Egypt 2012 (Photos by Ruth Kramer)|
Since President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood were removed from power by the military in early July, Islamist extremists have targeted Egypt's Christian minority, holding them partly responsible. E3 Partners Middle East expert Tom Doyle explains, "Whenever there is some political change, whenever there is something new--the Arab Spring, whatever arises--inevitably targets result...and typically, it's Christians."
Over the weekend, a clash in one southern city between Christians and Muslims saw 15 people wounded, and homes and a church burned. It started innocently enough: Muslim neighbors had a dispute over a speed bump being built in front of a Christian home. Tempers flared and fighting broke out, resulting in the ruins seen in the light of day.
When asked why Christians were blamed for the Morsi's ouster, Doyle said, "They went from having oppression under the government, to now [being] out of power and then being the agitators. They really can't do anything to the military, at this point, because the military is so strong. So they're going after Christians. They're unleashing their anger on Christians."
Applications to leave the country are increasing among both Christians and Muslims. By some estimates, tens of thousands of Christians have fled post-revolution Egypt.
According to corresponding reports from the Voice of the Martyrs USA, radicals have vandalized Christian-owned shops to identify them. Many Christian shop owners have closed their businesses. Christian women and girls are staying at home to prevent being attacked or kidnapped by radical Muslims. Asking for protection provides little comfort. Doyle cited a case where church officials got wind of a threat against them, asked police for help, and only after the church burned to the ground did help arrive. As cases like these pile up, he says, "God is their protector there because they cannot depend on the government."
Doyle goes on to say that the paradox of persecution comes to life in times like this. "There's unrest on both sides, Christian and Muslim. It's a dangerous situation, and people are reevaluating how they think and what they believe."
As people begin questioning the violence, their dogma, and more, ground is being prepared for the seed of hope. "We really need to pray for believers there. There are Christians that are in above-ground churches, like the Coptics. There are underground believers that come from a Muslim background, that are worshiping privately in homes so they're not in danger."
Christians in Egypt are asking you to pray with them for protection, but there's more to it than that. "Pray that the Christians can be known for love and not retaliation," notes Doyle. When believers respond in the name of Christ, and with boldness, it gets noticed. "Privately, Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus, wanting a different way, looking for a different relationship with God that they can only find through Jesus."